THE THEOLOGY OF SLEEP

Why do we sleep?

It is a manifestation of God’s purpose. He made us to mentally and physically need (and enjoy) sleep. 

There is rare condition known as Fatal Insomnia. These not people who have trouble sleeping, they cannot sleep. It quickly produces symptoms such as hallucinations, delirium, confusional states like that of dementia, and eventually it causes death.

But what about the theology of sleep?

What should we recognize about God and ourselves from this state of being which uses up approximately one third of our life?

Sleep declares that we must depend upon God’s care

Sleep reminds us that we are human, not divine. We must sleep, but God never does.

Sleep reminds us we are limited, but God is not. Our battery runs down and must be recharged. God continuously sustains everything in existence. Molecules move and hearts beat because God wills them to do so. The Puritan scholar, John Owen, said it is as if God’s magnificent work of creation is repeated every second.

Sleep reminds us we are vulnerable, and God is sovereign. We must put down our tasks and take time off from protecting who and what we love. God is never more or less in control. He is ever and absolutely sovereign.

Since sleep is part of God’s plan for us, both physiologically and theologically, take full advantage of sleep.

As you close your eyes, thank God that for the next several hours, you can rest your body and relax your mind.

As you close your eyes, praise God that he will be in complete control, while you are in a state of complete oblivion.

As you close your eyes, take joy in knowing that even when you must put aside your tasks, God remains active in everything that is important to you.

For those who are tempted to consider sleep as an interruption, and who think life would be much better if days lasted a few hours longer; you might consider rethinking that perspective. Is life more productive when you are behind the wheel or when God is being trusted to be faithful? Do we actually think that what we need most is more time to labor, rather than having a more consistent trust in God?

God is deserving of our rest, and that our rest would be full of contentment.Instead of “counting sheep” when sleep becomes elusive, try counting God’s faithfulness.

Before you slip into sleep each night, consider the theology of what is about to take place – and rejoice that God will be glorious even as you sleep.

LEADING OUR CHILDREN THROUGH AN OPPOSING CULTURAL

Ever parents faces the daunting challenge of how to walk our children through the influences and landmines of the surrounding culture.

In this Gospel Coalition interview, parents are given some practical thoughts on leading our children well through a culture which does not honor biblical values

WHEN ENJOYMENTS CROSS THE LINE

 

What makes an enjoyment idolatrous?

John Piper in one of his articles did an excellent job of digging into this matter. Through a series of 12 points, Piper helps us recognize when our enjoyments are being misused.

In short, he wants us to make sure all our enjoyments are completely God-centered.

If you consider any of these points to be “too picky”, it may be a sign that you need to look more seriously at God’s call for you to be a Great Commandment person.

Here are Piper’s 12 points of self-examination:

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is forbidden by God

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is disproportionate to the worth of what is desired

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not permeated with gratitude

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not see in God’s gift that God himself is more to be desired than the gift

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is starting to feel like a right, and our delight is becoming a demand

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it draws us away from our duties

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it awakens a sense of pride that we can experience this delight while others can’t

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is oblivious or callous to the needs and desires of others

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not desire that Christ be magnified as supremely desirable through the enjoyment

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not working a deeper capacity for holy delight

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss ruins our trust in the goodness of God

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss paralyzes us emotionally so that we can’t relate lovingly to other people.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 7.03.17

‘Rejoice in being a gifted church’

 

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

 

Spiritual Gifts 101

1. Spiritual gifts come from a supernatural change in us (vs 1-3)

The Holy Spirit gives us truth, life, and the capacity to be fruitful for God

This is a reality to celebrate, to lift our heart and to energize our life

2.  Spiritual gifts come from the triune God who is communal (vs 4-6)

God is a triune being who has always existed as three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

God by nature has always lived in and delighted in community; he has always been communicative and interactive

God’s work in the church flows out of his communal nature

This includes his purpose for the gospel and for spiritual gifts

v7 spiritual gifts are given for the common good (the rest of ch 12 illustrates this)

After v6, the focus remains on the Holy Spirit who distributes spiritual gifts

The context of chapters 12-14 is that the gifts were being used selfishly in Corinth

Instead we should view spiritual gifts through God’s communal nature

3.  Spiritual gifts are the activity of the Holy Spirit

A good working definition for spiritual gifts is found in v7

Believer, you are a gifted person; every believer has spiritual gifts (v7 & v11)

Your gifts are a manifestation of the Holy Spirit (v7)

The Holy Spirit does dwell in us, he does work in us, and he will use us

Spiritual gifts are an empowerment of the Holy Spirit (v11)

The exercise of our gifts is primarily what he is doing

The Holy Spirit uses our capacities, but he works far beyond them

Our gifts are carefully selected in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit (v11)

We should not demean our gifts or feel discouraged by what we don’t have

God is being good in our gifting – so take joy in it

4.  There is diversity in spiritual gifts (vs 4-6)

This is true in the variety of gifts (there is no exhaustive list) and in how they are used

This point is extensively made throughout chapter 12 – why?

We like to systematize our experience and expect others to fit into it

We like to compare, resulting in arrogance or discouragement

With this diversity, we must maintain the following:

(1)  Unity – chapter 12

(2)  Love – chapter 13

(3)  Order – chapter 14

5.  How do we know discover our gifts?

Don’t try to fit into any specific list

Since gifts are manifestations of the Spirit – focus on having a humble and pure heart

Since they are for the common good – be connected to the people of your church

Since each believer has them – be faithful and they will flow from you

 

Applications for Being a Gifted Church

1.  We have been gifted for life together, so let’s share life together

Pursue biblical community – just being friendly at church is not being in biblical community

Be engaged with one another through meaningful listening and sharing

Look for ways to encourage one another in being Great Commandment people

2.  Look for and identify how God is working in one another

Think about your conversations – is there awareness of God’s activity in them?

God is ever active, yet we often don’t feel as if he is, so we don’t live as if he is

If we are not experiencing his presence, we will worship him less

If we are not seeing his faithfulness, we will be tempted to depend upon him less

3.  We are gifted people, so we should want to be a gifted church

What that looks like is up to God, since he is the one who gives gifts

What he does is good, so we don’t need to fear any true manifestations of the Holy Spirit

We should not try to force his activity, but we can make room in our hearts and gatherings for it

 

DON’T FORGET GOD ON YOUR VACATION

Vacation season is upon us, and whether or not this is when you are on the road, it is a good time to consider how we honor God while we travel.

Sam Bierig encourages us in this article to make sure we don’t allow excuses to keep us from being in church when we are away.

I will add two other areas we should not let slip during vacations.

Giving – the expenses of your church don’t diminish when you are on vacation. Make sure you remain supportive of your church family whenever you cannot attend a service.

If you don’t give regularly to your church during the rest of the year, keep this in mind: you expect your church to be faithful in its ministry to you, so you should be faithful in making that ministry possible. 

Devotional time – vacation definitely flips over our regular schedule, which is the point of going on vacation! Still, have meaningful engagement with God.

Vacations are meant to be relaxing, but we have all experienced vacations turning into times of frustration. We need our hearts equipped by God wherever we are. God is worthy of living for him in all situations – including the times of getting away, which he graciously makes possible for us.

When you go away to be refreshed, keep in mind that meaningful time with our good God is refreshing.

DOES BUSY CHURCH = HEALTHY CHURCH?

 

When a pastor or church member looks at their church’s calendar when it is full of events, the response is usually one of satisfaction.

However, there are good reasons to exchange that perspective for one of concern.

The reason we like to see a full schedule is because we think it declares fruitfulness is taking place. And perhaps that is true. But most likely the idea of fruitfulness through busyness is only partially true.

I have been a pastor for almost 35 years, and I have discovered that when pressed to identify the fruit in our programs, sometimes the results are surprisingly slim. This has nothing to do with the sincere intentions and faithful hard work of those involved in them.

There have been times when a program that many would consider to be a showcase of good work was in fact producing virtually no identifiable fruit.

The answer is not to trash all programs, but we should carefully examine their usefulness.

The knee jerk reaction by people tends to be that attempts to significantly reduce programs is a step backward from fruitful ministry.

But the opposite truth is the motivation for trimming the programming in our churches. It is because we do want to be fruitful, that we don’t want to fool ourselves into thinking we are being effective because we are being busy. The importance of gospel ministry is too precious to merely think we are being effective.

The ministry goal that Jesus has given us is to be making disciples. This involves having people come to faith in Christ and having them mature so that they become part of the disciple-making process.

This requires a certain amount of programming in and by the church, but it also requires freedom to be involved in disciple-making in our homes and communities.

When we free up the church calendar AND empower church members to be disciple-makers, fruitful ministry expands.

The topic of church schedule and programming is not a minor concern, the health of gospel ministry is partially at stake.

Jared Wilson serves the church well with this article, “10 Reasons Why You Should Underprogram Your Church”. A careful reading of Jared’s points reveals the value of giving this matter serious consideration.

It can be hard for a church to strike a perfect balance, but we can become more careful and intentional about busyness in the church just as much as we should be concerning busyness in our personal lives.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.26.17

Don’t Ruin a Good Meal                  

 

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

 

How did the Corinthians ruin a good meal?

Let’s try to picture the scene Paul describes

They ‘came together’ in homes of the wealthy which had limited dining space, so some people sat in outer courtyards

People were bringing or being served different meals based on status, which was a social norm

The wealthy arrived early and servants would arrive later

Some were gorging themselves and v21 getting ‘drunk’

The ‘division’ described is over economic and social status

The results: God was dishonored, v22 the church was ‘despised’, v22 some were ‘humiliated’ and their witness to the world was corrupted

 

Application #1: Take seriously our fellowship with God

Paul takes the church back to the meaning of the Lord’s Supper

vs23-24 the Bread – represents Jesus’ body and the physical reality that God in flesh took our place

v25 the Cup – the context for the cup in the Old Testament was often wrath. Jesus died taking wrath for us 

Exodus 24:8 describes the Old Covenant: obey God’s law and he will bless you

Jesus’ blood established a New Covenant: trust in Christ’s death and you will receive his life

This New Covenant is between God the Father and God the Son; and we are brought into it (John 17:6-8)

This meal is called a ‘remembrance’ – to live with a cross-centered perspective

Eating this meal v26 is a ‘proclamation’ –  a testimony to one another

 A holy meal (fellowship) requires a holy heart

vs 27-32 tell us to ‘examine’ our hearts and eat this meal in a ‘worthy manner’

The Lord’s Supper is a covenant meal which proclaims our relationship with God

If we are careless with this relationship, we are guilty concerning Jesus v27

Carelessness with the Lord’s Supper shows inattention to the death and reign of Jesus

The honor of Christ is so momentous, God judges those misuse him

Those who reject him, are eternally condemned!

Believers who claim to know better, were disciplined for it (v30-32). “Does that mean I will be disciplined like this?”  The better question is should you be?

How do we ‘examine’ ourselves?

It involves careful reflection based upon what our actions reveal

But beware of self-examination that focuses only on our unworthiness 

Stephen Um: “Look for repentance and look for evidences of grace at work”

 

Application #2:  Take seriously our fellowship one another

The Corinthian’s misuse of the Lord’s Supper, was a misuse of one another

They didn’t distinguish fellowship in church from how the world treats one another

Their fellowship was marked by the world’s categories

We use people according to their gifts and maturity, but our fellowship with them is according to the cross

Take this a step further; we should be alert for those who are marginalized 

Their fellowship was ruled by personal selfishness:  Here I am, please me!

Remember how Jesus introduced this meal?  He first washed their feet (John 13)

The Church is not here to serve you; we are the Church to serve Christ and each other

Our fellowship is not in common earthly bonds, it’s in common heavenly bonds

We simply are a supernatural community; so we need to live that way

v33 the command to ‘wait’ – is a command to share the meal as a church. It is a command to look out for and take care of one another

 

What is your response – seek forgiveness, reach out, serve, or find biblical community?

 

EVERY BELIEVER’S RESPONSIBILITY

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by Debbie Huber


We are all a part of the body of Christ. We do not always consider our active role in the body when it comes to reaching out to others. The pastors, greeters, Sunday school teachers are taking care of all of this. We are in a hurry, we have to get home….  isn’t that why the church has ministry programs?

Ministry programs do not lend a listening ear. 

Ministry programs do not spur one another on to love God and His word. Ministry programs cannot give an encouraging smile to a nervous child. 

Ministry programs cannot walk a visiting family to find their child’s new Sunday school class. 

Ministry programs do not notice a worried, sad, or fearful look and offer prayer.

Ministry programs do not rejoice with others. 

Ministry programs do not give encouraging phone calls.

Ministry programs do not spend time with the elderly, or engage the teenager who seems alone.  

Every believer must consciously seek to reach out to others in meaningful ways as ambassadors for Christ. What if every person who is a part of our church prayed and asked God to help us step out of our comfort zone and touch the lives of those around us. Many seemingly small gestures work together to impact the world for Christ. 

If someone asks directions to the bathroom or a Sunday school classroom, instead of pointing them in the right direction walk them there instead.  

Greet others with a smile!  Don’t wait for them to come up to you. 

If you see someone who looks sad and fearful ask if you could help.  Pray for them. 

Speak to one another with biblical encouragement, spurring one another to seek God through His word. 

Pray that God will give you eyes to see the needs of those around you. And go the extra mile to show you care. 

INFLUENCE: FATHER’S DAY EDITION

SGC Pastor's Conference 2016 Some of the people who regularly and deeply influence me with the gospel

Yesterday we honored Fathers and their influence on our lives.

However, some of you men (and women) may be so aware of your limitations that you doubt that your life can be an influence for God.

The famous people in the world certainly seem to have far more influence than the people who serve Christ. However, where it counts most, they are completely impotent!  Just as this world will end, so will the influences of those who follow its values. But the influences for Christ’s eternal Kingdom will last as long as his kingdom does!  

To be a godly influence two truths reign supreme:

1.  The focus of our influence must be the Gospel

Romans 1:16 tells us the gospel is “the power of God for salvation”. There is no greater influence we can have on people than for the gospel. This is not just true for unbelievers. Every believer needs regular encouragements in living out the gospel.

2.  The power in our influence is the Holy Spirit

Our influence is not meant to be what we can be to others; it is what the Holy Spirit can accomplish in and through us. Wouldn’t you rather have your potential be what God will do?

Conclusions about our influence through the Holy Spirit and for the gospel:

1.  Our influence goes beyond our abilities (Acts 4:13)     

2.  Our influence goes beyond our what we can see (1 Corinthians 12:21-22) 

3.  Our influence is not lost due to weaknesses or past failure (John 4:16-18 & 39)

General observations concerning being an influence:

1.  Each person you can influence is worth influencing

We often think and act as if we have no vital ministry from God. Yet, every person already in our life needs gospel influences. Perhaps we will be the only person to be praying for them this way!

2.  Every person who can observe you, can be influenced by you

Just by living a life in contrast to the world, we are an influence on those who see us. The people in your life need to be surrounded by those who love and live by the gospel.

3.  Small things can have an effective influence

The key to every godly influence is how God will use that influences. This should encourage us concerning small actions for Christ. If God honors a small action for Him, should we still consider it to be a small thing?

4.  The world desperately needs the influence of the gospel and godliness

At times if feels as if we live in the middle of a swamp of ungodliness. Rather than bemoan this fact, recognize that it sets up a vivid contrast when we live whole-heartedly for God. In our self-centered culture, godliness will stands out and be noticed. Be encouraged that your life can be a place of solid ground in the midst of the swamp.

And while you are at it, do not tire in thanking those who are an influence in your life. They need encouragement too!

READING THE BIBLE SUPERNATURALLY

 

Last year, I enjoyed reading John Piper’s book “A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness”, which presents the self-authenticating nature of the Bible.

Now my soul is being thrilled by reading Piper’s follow-up book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture”.

Piper wants to do more than motivate us to a renewed commitment in reading the Bible, he wants us to recognize the extraordinary potency that should be in our everyday reading of it.

The Bible is a supernatural book, that is understood through a supernatural work of God, and should produce supernatural effects for God in us and through us!

“Reading the Bible Supernaturally” will inspire, encourage, excite and clarify. Consider how wonderful it will be to have your daily walk in God’s Word become more fully what the Holy Spirit intends for it to be.

All that the Spirit says is wondrous, and all that He intends for the believer is wondrous. This should lead us to spend more time with our Bibles open before us. And this should fill our heart with expectation at the turn of each page.